Adapting to climate change in the mixed crop and livestock farming systems in sub-Saharan Africa


Mixed crop–livestock systems are the backbone of African agriculture, providing food security and livelihood options for hundreds of millions of people. Much is known about the impacts of climate change on the crop enterprises in the mixed systems, and some, although less, on the livestock enterprises. The interactions between crops and livestock can be managed to contribute to environmentally sustainable intensification, diversification and risk management. There is relatively little information on how these interactions may be affected by changes in climate and climate variability. This is a serious gap, because these interactions may offer some buffering capacity to help smallholders adapt to climate change.

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Figure 1: Mixed crop–livestock farming in Africa.
Figure 2: Four possible trajectories of crop and livestock systems.
Figure 3: Future climate challenges for mixed systems in Africa.


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P.K.T. acknowledges the support of CCAFS and a CSIRO McMaster Research Fellowship. The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) is funded by the CGIAR Fund, AusAid, Danish International Development Agency, Environment Canada, Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical, Irish Aid, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Government of Russia, UK Aid and the European Union, with technical support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development. We thank J. Kiplimo for producing the maps.

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P.K.T. and M.H. designed and wrote the paper together.

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Correspondence to Philip K. Thornton.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Thornton, P., Herrero, M. Adapting to climate change in the mixed crop and livestock farming systems in sub-Saharan Africa. Nature Clim Change 5, 830–836 (2015).

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